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Enhanced planet textures for FFED3DAJ & texture caching.


AndyJ
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Hi,
 
I just thought that I should post this because although FFED3DAJ v1.10a has had well over 300 downloads, at the time of writing nanite2000's enhanced texture packs are unfortunately lagging far behind - with the planet skins/textures at around 70 downloads.

To get the best visuals from this latest build then I recommend that you add the following texture packs by nanite2000 which have been created specifically to accompany this build: Enhanced planet surfaces, Enhanced metal surfaces, and optionally, Cockpit icons and Planetary information graphics.
(There is an album of images for each of the texture packs here)

Without installing the planet surfaces textures, you won't see textured cliffs at shorelines or molten surfaces on volcanic planets!

The planet surfaces and metal textures have instructions within their archives, but in short: extract your choice of either the high, medium or low resolution image files into the Textures folder.

Please note also that to make full use of the planet terrains, an edit is required to the ffed3daj.cfg file!

Find the line that says customTexturesFilename=textures.cfg
and change it to either: customTexturesFilename=textures_nanite2000_skins.cfg
or customTexturesFilename=textures_nanite2000_terrain.cfg

The difference between the two settings is an aesthetic one: whether the larger rocky planets / moons are displayed using a single high-resolution "skin" to cover them, or draw their terrain using individual textures.

32bit users, especially with lower available memory would be best to stick to the low or medium resolution textures as the additional images do use quite a lot of additional memory.

64bit users with 4GB+ of memory don't need to worry as the game can fit them in as well as all of the models (modelPreLoad=99)

I'm sure that everybody reads the 'readme' file, but I'll also take the opportunity to highlight that users with graphics cards that have 2GB dedicated memory are recommended to try enabling the new experimental texture load settings in ffed3daj.cfg:
loadPanelTexturesToVideoCard=1
loadCabinTexturesToVideoCard=1
loadGameTexturesToVideoCard=1
loadPlanetTexturesToVideoCard=1
loadTerrainTexturesToVideoCard=1

These settings will cache all of the game textures in video memory rather than system memory. (including the new high resolution files)

Users with 1GB or less graphics memory will need to experiment with the last 3 settings and the medium/low resolution images. Users with 256MB to 512MB graphics memory would likely only be able to use the first two settings for a small memory gain.

It would be useful to hear some feedback on what works for graphics cards with less than 2GB, and will surely help other users tweak their configurations.

Cheers!

AndyJ

[edit] corrected the .cfg filenames for nanite2000's textures


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Geraldine
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I am getting some very bad framerates on my 64 bit Win 7 system even the low rez settings with my AMD Radeon HD 6800 1 gig card. I've also tried changing the cfg file quite a bit to load stuff into system memory instead of the the graphics memory to see if that would help to no avail. Its still fine in deep space though and only drops when close in to a planets. No sign of clouds either. Are they in this build Andy?


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AndyJ
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Hi Geraldine - sorry to hear this!

FPS do drop significantly when really close to a planet.
Unfortunately the routine that generates the surface only runs in a single thread and because of this can easily bring any CPU to its knees currently. It's CPU bound rather than dependant upon the graphics card.
I suspect that the reverse-engineered C code is also a good deal less efficient than the original assembly code was. It also performs more iterations I think than FFE did, subdividing the terrain triangles and this is the CPU killer as it generates an entire planet every frame ... and the lower you get the more detail (divisions) it creates. This might be hard to improve but I've some ideas for the future...

What sort of frame-rate do you see at the 'default' start position on Hope when landed and looking forward out of the cockpit? (press 'F' to display)

As a comparison:
I see around 16FPS on my quite-old 4GB 32bit Vista laptop. This has a Core2-Duo T9300 @2.5GHz CPU and a NVidia 9600M GT with 512MB of DDR3 memory.
And on my main PC (which is also a bit long in the tooth!) I still only see around 17FPS when landed. This is a Core2-Quad Q6600@2.4GHz and with a 2GB NVidia GTX 750ti graphics card.

This should give you an idea I guess of what to expect depending on your CPU and clock speed.

If you are seeing lower frame rates and have a comparable or hopefully better PC then check these settings haven't been altered:
control_dist=20000000
max_divide_deep=8
smart_optimizer=1
smart_optimizer_c=2

Switching off smart_optimizer, or increasing any of the other values will all have a negative effect on fps.

On the texture side of things, I would reset the "load....textureToVideoCard" values to 0 for now.
If you have 4GB+ and are running on 64bit windows, then you don't really need them other than to free up some system memory.

And do you still have these values unchanged in ffed3daj.cfg:
usePlanetShaders=1
drawAtmosphere=1
useEnhancedAtmosphereShaders=1

The start position ought to look something like this:
[attachment=2843:screen_141114_183019.jpg]

And external planet views something like this:
[attachment=2844:screen_141009_230912.jpg]

If you still aren't seeing any clouds, do you have the files Texturestex694_hi.png & Texturestex694_lo.png present?
(they originate from FFED3DAJ_v1.10_CoreFiles.zip)

Hopefully we can get you sorted out!

AndyJ


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fluffyfreak
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You're using PNG files for textures? Do you compress them upon loading into DXT format or just use them raw?

 

You are probably using up too much GPU ram and causing it to page them out to the main ram, which is very slow.

 

PNG files are only small on disk, they're huge in memory unless you compress them to a GPU friendly format (DXT/ST3C).

 

Just a thought. You can check the Pioneer code if you want to see how we do it.

 

Andy


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AndyJ
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Hi Andy

Thanks for the suggestion, but AFAIK Pioneer uses OpenGL whilst FFED3D/AJ uses DirectX. I'd have been asking to pinch some of the pioneer shader code a long time ago otherwise! 😉

FFED3D/AJ can load textures from a variety of formats at start-up, PNG is one of them. They're converted and used internally as D3D textures though. Normally these are 'managed' resources which DirectX stores in system memory and not on the graphics card. The new 'experimental' load settings in the latest build are to help reduce system-memory requirements for 32bit users who do have lots of spare graphics memory that's otherwise unused. This then frees some extra system memory for loading the various models into.

I think that paging in the context you're referring to is an OpenGL issue that can happen, where as DirectX won't load a resource if there's not enough memory and fails - friendly! This is why models/skin assets have to be dropped and loaded on demand for lower spec machines, hence trying to free up more system memory helps cache more at a time and reduces the frequency that this needs to happen.
The planet detail slow-down is a known issue with FFED3D, it's easy to see it send a core to 100% and how cpu usage can be reduced at the sacrifice of detail. One direction I'm going to explore is to see if I can call the routine that generates a planet for each one in the system and force it to create them their highest detail and un-rotated, cache the mesh and then see if it can be drawn the same as any other model afterwards, rather than recalculating the whole thing every frame. Obviously there's a rather big 'if' in there as I'm dealing with FFE's existing assembly routines and not nicely documented C code. We'll see!!

Cheers!

AndyJ


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Geraldine
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Two Andys for the price of one! Great suggestion there Andy about using some of the Pioneer code. If it could be incorporated into FFE3D it would be wonderful. And AndyJ, firstly let me say as much to the devs of Oolite, Pioneer, Scout Plus and Genesia, I owe you my thanks. These games each of you work on respectively, desperately need to exist and I am thankful talented coders like yourselves have took up the challenge of keeping them flying! This is sterling work your doing here AndyJ and despite the bugs and slowdowns I am experiencing its still great and greatly appreciated.

 

Anyways on with the post, I checked for the cloud textures. For some strange reason I forgot to install them!

       So I got me clouds! Beautiful they are too! Many thanks for the advice.

 

My frame rate though (after double checking the cfg file) is still very low unfortunately, just 6FPS at New Hope. Out in space it shoots way up to 50FPS. So actually flying round and fighting other ships is as good as ever.

 

I am starting to wonder if I should do a fresh install without nanite's texture packs which would be a shame as the planets look really nice with them, especially with the clouds.

 

I do hope however the use of Pioneer code could help with this, so I will keep my fingers crossed.


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AndyJ
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Hi Geraldine

Glad to hear that you've found your missing clouds!

I wouldn't worry about using the textures though. So long as you've got enough memory to load them in, using them shouldn't make any difference.

6FPS is pretty low though, what CPU/speed are you running that on?

[an hour later...]

Hmmm... actually, thinking about it, Steve (FrontierAstro) has also reported seeing single digit FPS landed at some living planets, and this is on his new PC that'll happily run Elite: Dangerous. So it seems quite strange that my 2008 laptop can apparently produce 3x higher frame rates... Not sure what to make of this!

I'm wondering if it's a shader issue...
The planet surface shader is pretty much the one inherited from the original FFED3D, although I've added fog effects to the latest build but I think that the issue was present in prior versions.

Both my laptop and main Pc use NVidia cards, I think that both yourself and Steve have AMD GPUs... perhaps there's an issue that's Impacting AMD cards more than NVidia cards.

Just had a quick experiment and actually I hadn't realised that the shader was impacting quite so much as it is!
If I switch off the planet surface shaders (by setting usePlanetShaders=0) then the frame rate shoots up from 16fps to 49/50 which is the limit defined by the "maxfps=50" setting. Looks like there's a possible culprit to investigate here then!

So for the short term, I guess you could switch off planet shaders and see if it gives you a better experience.
Unfortunately you will lose the water and fog effects, but I expect that your frame rate will probably be pretty much maxed out!

Cheers!

AndyJ


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Geraldine
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Oh good! I will try that.   Yes I have an AMD card & AMD Bulldozer CPU on my main PC. I do have an older machine with an Intel Quad core and an old 9600 NVida card. Maybe that machine will fair better with the shaders?

 

Also  just had a thought (usually a bad thing! ), if FFE3D could use Pioneer code, could Pioneer use FFE3D code I wonder? What I was thinking about was those lovely clouds. They would look grand in Pioneer! Oh and the beam lasers too.

 

EDIT: Turning off planet shaders gave me a 2 FPS boost. Now upto 8 FPS at New hope. Well its a step in the right direction.


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 Anonymous
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Thanks for the suggestion regarding planet shaders Andy. Like Geraldine I gained about 2fps at Hope by switching them off.

 

I found I got a bigger improvement in frame rate by setting extendedDrawDistances=0 and extendedDetailDistances=0, taking the Hope position up to about 25fps  😎


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Geraldine
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Thanks for that Steve, I will try that next!

 

EDIT: Now upto a heady 15 FPS at New Hope!


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fluffyfreak
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Out of curiosity where is the code for FFED3D?


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AndyJ
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Out of curiosity where is the code for FFED3D?

There's some old FFED3D source "out there" on Google Code, but the source of my own continuation isn't online right now. I plan that it will be in the near future though so that I can take a break and perhaps step away, but it will need a bit of a tidy up first! I'm likely to drop a v1.11 first just to tie up a couple of lose ends, in particular the lack of an up-to-date configuration program.

 

I'm afraid that I don't know what you have or don't have in Pioneer regarding clouds, those in the latest FFED3DAJ aren't anything ground-breaking - essentially just 2 texture-mapped spheres, culled depending if above/below and with additive alpha-blending and a basic DX9 shader (HLSL) to light them. I'd be happy to PM & send you the relevant code fragments & explanation if it's something you can make use of?

 

 

Anyway. just to bring the thread back on topic: If anyone reading this has downloaded the FFED3DAJ v1.10a patch, but hasn't downloaded nanite2000's texture packs too, in particular the planet surfaces set, then stop missing out, read the 1st post and improve your visuals!!! 😎

 


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WolfMax
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Hi all

 

Found FFED3D while looking for stuff for an Atari ST (just got my old one out of mothballs for something to do). I'm loving playing this again. However I have come across something.

 

I was looking at the ships in an Imperial ship yard to see what the new renders looked like. As I clicked on the Imperial Trader, it initially viewed briefly with its original rendering with the three nacelles. However, it then applied the new textures but now looks the same as the Courier with only 2 nacelles. Is this deliberate or has the texture file for the trader been overwritten with the one for the courier somehow at some point.

 

Are people still updating the textures for FFED3D? It would be fantastic to see what could be done to the big space stations (Abraham Lincoln type). I have no skills in this area so can't help I'm sorry to say.

 

Anyhow, keep up the great work

 

Cheers

 

Colin 


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AndyJ
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Hi Colin!
 
I'm guessing that you've downloaded the "Beta 1.12++" pack as your base installation, either from here or from the "Elite-Forever" site, and it sounds as though you are either missing model 215 or it is a bad version.
It does seem that by default, the beta pack did not include the correct model for the imperial courier in Models215, there's just a .x file which is a dump of the original engine shape that FFE drew and no skin.
I've attached a .zip containing the missing model at the end of this reply for you to unpack into the Models folder. 
 
With the Beta 1.12++ pack as your base, you will most likely also need to run JSGME.exe to check which modifications are enabled. For example, the intro sequence is probably still showing a basic, light grey space-station, but if you enable the 'Axeblade station' model then this will be upgraded with a darker, highly detailed replacement.
 
I suggest you will want to enable SteveT's cockpit and all of the models except Hope station (older model) and IP Shuttle Stud-City (a lego ship).
Also the Latest textures (aug 2010) and SteveT's cockpit crosshairs (DND).
 
Alternatively, if you don't mind a large download and want everything switched on by default along extra 3rd party textures & models, and all of the cheesy FFE comms videos, then it's recommended to grab the Ittiz version as your basic installation from here: FFED3D-beta3-Ittiz 0.3
 
Once done, add my latest FFED3DAJ v1.10a patch back over the top, with the core textures, example skins, and I recommend nanite2000's textures too. (see the description on the patch page for links)

To answer your questions-

The ships displaying initially as the original models, this intentional behaviour in the default configuration of FFED3DAJ as there are quite a lot of players with limited hardware and 32bit versions of Windows. Unless you've got a 64bit version of Windows with 4GB+, then the game typically won't have enough memory available to pre-load all textures and upgraded models into memory. In that scenario it loads models in when they are required and drops models which aren't being referenced to make room as required.
If you are fortunate to be on 64bit Windows and have 4GB+ memory, you can edit the ffed3daj.cfg in notepad and change modelPreLoad=2 to modelPreLoad=99 so that all models are preloaded at start up.

As far as texturing the large orbital city stations such as Earth's Abraham Lincoln, this would require modellers to come on board who could create .x models to replace the polygon versions that are currently drawn straight from the original FFE data. This station uses multiple parts to configure itself: model 241 (the central section), model 242 (the curved arms) and model 243 (outer pods).
Sadly I'm not a modeller either, so doing any of this myself is beyond me. I did try to tweak the docking bay model in Blender but it's UI was ... quirky ... and I ended up chopping out an unwanted extra room and moved some walls by resaving the .x model as text and hacking it with notepad until I got it right!!!

I think that most of the original project modellers drifted away shortly after the original Russian coder DreamZzz stopped working on FFED3D back in 2010. Probably because to replace some of the more complex models, there also needed to be someone to give insight into how the code actually used them - otherwise it was guess work. Potsmoke is still around and active on this forum (Gernot) and there are some of his later models for FFED3D in the downloads area - including his version of the Imperial Courier/Trader which you may want to check out - but I do know that he is more interested and quite involved with creating original models for Pioneer these days.

Anyway, nice to hear you're having fun!

Andy (also still an Atari ST owner, but don't tell Geraldine ;))


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Geraldine
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Andy (also still an Atari ST owner, but don't tell Geraldine ;))

 

I herd that!

 

But....um....er....

 

DSCF0010-1.jpg

 

yes that is mine


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AndyJ
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Yay!

And somewhat off-topic ... do I spy a modded ST there ... is that a slot & buttons or LED's on top?

I have the original 520STFM that only read single-sided disks... did the scary mod back in the day to make it boot from an external drive, this involved snipping 2 of the sound chip pins with a pair of nail scissors (probably not to be advised lol) and then soldering patch leads to switch the connections. No idea why that worked but it did, nor why I couldn't have switched the original drive out lol. Also added 2gb 2MB memory internally.

I guess I'll have to dig mine out and thrill the other half with some retro-games 😉

BTW Colin - hopefully you found Little Green Desktop in your search for everything-Atari!


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Geraldine
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Yes I did a bit of modding, at present the 520 STe has 4 megs of ram, a HxC floppy Drive emulator (fitted in place of the original floppy drive) with over 2500 games (Pompey Pirates a-go-go) and various Atari utilities installed (on a removable 16 gig SDHC card), an LCD screen (in green of course) to read what's on the HxC and the buttons are the manual controls for it. It also has on screen controls too. If you want to know more about how I did it, I have a build thread over on Amibay: <here>. All in all an interesting project it was, almost as good as my A500+, almost.


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WolfMax
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Hi Andy

Thanks for the file, the Trader now looks like it should (always reminds me of the original ship in Blake's 7).

 

The CFG file change worked too.

 

Geraldine, Nice Atari. I'm hoping to mod mine with a CosmosEx unit (hopefully from the next production batch). It uses an SD card like your HxC but also has Ethernet and USB functions as well  (See Here)

 

Cheers

Colin

 


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Geraldine
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That CosmosEx unit looks grand Colin And apologies to Andy for derailing his thread.

 

In a pretty awful attempt to get the thread kinda back on the rails with regards to "Elitey things" when I was putting the software archive together for the STe I uncovered 2 versions of Elite for it. A rare buggy version 1 and the more common version 2 that was similar to the one on the Amiga.

 

Version 1 (note the different grey cockpit layout). As far as I know this was only available on the ST and I prefer the cockpit in this one with its cool "Cobra III" label on the dashboard. I wonder why they changed it?

hqdefault.jpg

 

The more common version 2 with the blue & green cockpit

ELITE_003.jpg


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AndyJ
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Well the thread was really to try to raise awareness for nanite2000's textures and it veered off tangent after that anyway lol.

 

Elite-Plus on the ST came on an unencrypted disk and the cockpit was simply a picture file that could easily be edited with the likes of Neochrome or Degas.

Is the grey version a real release I wonder? I've found evidence that one was on a Pompey Pirates disk via YouTube (#2) so perhaps it was either a leaked/beta version or simply the result of someone not liking and having changed the blue cockpit to a grey one before they put it on the disk...

 


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Geraldine
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I suspect it was a leaked beta, but perhaps your right Andy and someone from Pompey Pirates customised it? All sorts went on in those crazy days. Anyways your correct the thread is about nanite2000's textures not old ST games, but for a retro nut like me it's...it's....difficult sometimes


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